By his own admission Mike Hopwood likes to get things done relatively quickly but he is acutely aware of the need to make the foundations as strong as possible if he is to move closer to achieving of his aim of turning Queens’ School into one of the best multi-sport academies in the country.

The Bushey secondary school has a long-held and strong reputation for sport and it now wants to take this to the next level through its newly-formed academy.

The school felt there was a defined pathway for pupils from Year 7 to 11 to combine their studies with physical education, but this was not the case for those in the Sixth Form.

The academy has therefore been established to give 16 to 19-year-olds the chance to continue to pursue their sporting goals alongside their academic studies, with one not suffering at the expense of the other. It is the Queens’ director of sport’s job to help make this possible and the first two areas it is focusing on is boys basketball and girls football.

Mr Hopwood said: “What we’re looking at is can we create a student athlete? Can we create the opportunity for students to fulfil their academic dreams alongside their sporting dreams?

“For a very long time it’s been sport or academia but never the two combined. Potentially and arguably there are other academies that are looking at the athlete student and we felt a unique selling point for ours is we are respected academically in the area, but also we’re respected sporting-wise. Can we marry the two? And I felt we really could.

“I don’t see any reason why a young person of 16 to 19 can’t follow a normal academic pathway and do their sport on top. They don’t need to sacrifice one for the other in my opinion.”

Watford Observer:

Mr Hopwood, who was head of department at the Aldenham Road school for 15 years before he agreed to take on the director of sport role, explained it decided on boys basketball because of the school’s strong reputation for it both county-wide and nationally, while girls football is a sport Queens’ feels it does “reasonably well but we could offer a real opportunity for young ladies to follow that pathway through into 19 and beyond.

“It coincided with me having a conversation with the chairman of Watford Ladies FC, Andrew Lovelace. He felt very passionately about giving the opportunity to young ladies at 16 to 19 and so we’ve created a partnership with Watford Ladies and they’re going to run our programme.

“We’re going to monitor their academic performance, their mental health and support them in a mentoring way, they’re going to provide the opportunity for coaching after school three times a week, entering the academies league and pursuing that career as well.”

Mr Hopwood has recruited Michael Darlow, assistant coach of Hemel Storm’s first team to his PE staff, and the chairman of West Herts Warriors Derek McIntosh is also helping to coach in the Academy.

The director of sport continued: “We are now looking to create a pathway, internally from the age of 11 all the way through to 19 and beyond, and also we’re looking at recruiting talented young basketball players and talented young lady footballers to join our programme so that we can offer them perhaps more than they would receive in other areas.

“Off the back of that, I don’t particularly want to stop there. My vision is beyond 19 that I can offer them very clear pathways onto higher education should they choose to want it, whether that be at home or abroad.

“I’m in contact with several companies and several coaches in America where we can look at perhaps leading them into scholarships in the States because ladies soccer is huge out in America and obviously basketball speaks for itself.”

The basketball programme is up and running, with a team playing in the Academy Basketball League, and any students interested in joining it should email

Watford Observer:

The girls football academy is due to start in September 2021 and applications are now being taken via

“Both girls and boys have to pass the academic criteria to get into our sixth form,” Mr Hopwood said. “In some ways that makes us different again because whilst they made be incredibly sporty, we do offer a raft of different educational provision, both vocationally and ‘A’ level.

“What makes us different is we want high performing young people, both academically and sporting, and that doesn’t mean that we are elite, that just means we want people that are committed to doing the programme for both.

“That doesn’t mean they have to have A* or 9s across the board, it means they have to be committed to both aims of the programme.”

Watford Observer:

The director of sport ultimately wants to broaden the range of sports Queens’ is able to offer through the academy, but he knows it is vital he gets the basketball and football programmes right first.

He said: “We’ve built a really good brand in terms of our sporting reputation at Queens’ School and I’ve got some incredibly passionate and dedicated guys that have been at the forefront of that, and then the head said would you like to make a move to look after our academy and I was delighted to do so because I think it’s what’s missing for Queens’ to be a really true sporting school.

“My aim is to make this a multi-sport academy. Right now I have to get this right, I have to get the girls basketball and the boys basketball right, but my aim is to make this one of the best multi-sport academies in the country - but I need a bit of time.”